Brave, a Chromium-based browser, has removed FLoC, Google’s controversial alternative identifier to independent cookies for tracking users on websites.
Google has just released FLoC or Federated Learning of Cohorts for Chrome, in response to improved privacy while running targeted ads.
“The worst aspect of FLoC is that it materially damages users’ privacy, under the guise of being privacy-friendly, ”Brave says in a blog post.
Privacy advocates have widely criticized FLoC, even though it is an improvement on third-party cookies. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) calls it a “terrible idea,” as Chrome now shares a summary of recent browsing activity with marketing experts.
“A FLoC-enabled browser would collect information about your user’s browsing habits and then use that data to assign its user to a‘ cohort ’or group,” writes Bennett Cyphers, an EFF technologist.
“Users with similar browsing habits – for some definition of ‘similar’ – would be grouped into the same cohort. Each user’s browser will share the cohort ID, indicating which group it belongs to, with the sites and advertisers.”
Brave notes that the California Consumer Privacy Act 2018 (CCPA) and the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are signs that consumers are seeking privacy on the web.
“Faced with these trends, it’s disappointing to see Google, instead of taking the current opportunity to help design and build a privacy-using website, propose and immediately deliver to Chrome a set of small, ad-tech-preserving changes that explicitly prioritize maintaining the structure of the web advertising ecosystem as Google sees it, ”Brave says in a blog post.
The DuckDuckGo search engine last week released an extension for Chrome to block FLoC tracking, comparing it to “entering a store where they already know everything about you”.
Brave argues that since the feature affects user privacy, it should be something that users should get involved in.
“Since FLoC can also be harmful to website operators, we recommend that all websites disable FLoC. In general, any new features on the Internet that risk privacy should be included,” Brave says.
“This is a common sense principle that web users are respected by default. One might wonder why Google doesn’t allow you to sign up for FLoC. We suspect that Google has declined FLoC (for sites and users) because Google knows that Get Involved is a privacy system. it will probably never reach the scale needed to get advertisers to use it. “
Microsoft, which also uses Chromium as the basis for its new Edge browser, has not announced its position on FLoC. ZDNet has contacted Microsoft for a response and will update the story if it receives it.
According to the EFF, Google released FLoC for 0.5% of Chrome users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines and the United States. But the company hopes to publish it to 5% of users.